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Reflections on “1/4 an MA”

It’s been a hectic one and a half months, classes with endless readings, presentations and papers, new jobs and new friends.

Recently I overheard classmates discussing how after this week we’d be “1/4 of an MA”, a phrase which greatly piqued my interest.

Does one slowly acquire MA status over temporal length?
Does one hit the end of semester and say, I am half of my to-be-acquired degree?
What exactly is happening these next 8 months that makes me an MA??

To be honest I have no idea.
I have discovered, however, a lot more about myself: my preferences, opinions, capacity and frame of mind.
I guess as a celebratory nod at this 1/4 milestone I have apparently passed, here’s a catalogue of my evolving thought processes.

On Accents

My favourite class this semester is an interdisciplinary course on Diasporic and Transnational Research Methods.
The class is full of large personalities, academic passion, and very intelligent human beings who are on the road to Masters or PhD qualifications.

My favourite thing about this class, though, is the multiplicity of accent in the room.
How gloriously decolonizing, to hear English discussions sliced through with so many different inflections, in tones that were AND are often still considered less intelligent, less civilized and therefore less legitimate.
I am forced to check myself again and again, for internalized prejudice against accents, even as I appreciate the fact that here are multilingual speakers.
I am led to see the limitations of my own discipline when faced with the varied number of critical approaches being offered in discourse.

For me, this is real learning, and for this I am grateful.

Retrospectively, my decision to tick off “Centre of Diaspora and Transnational Studies” on my MA application was the best gift I could offer myself, as I have been pushed into whole new disciplines like Cultural Studies, Urban Theory, Globalization literatures and many more.

The people who come to study in these intersections, are people who often have something at stake in their study.
They study communities that matter to them, histories that have been excluded or underrepresented, social narratives that need critique from non-normative perspectives.
This is the missing piece I’ve always felt heavily as an English student.


I have come to realize that my ENG skill set – the ability to close read, deconstruct, interpret and extrapolate through critical theory and analyze with some sort of linguistic precision and literary consciousness – is invaluable. I owe so much to my undergraduate education, and the professors, coursework and friends who have enriched my learning in so many different ways.

But ENG for me has its limits.

Within my critical theory class that claims to cover the “canon”, there are few women critics featured and only one WOC critic.
There are many conversations and discussions happening without self-reflexive checking of privilege.
Understanding theory from a “theoretical perspective” is an easy way to say, “I am too lazy to do the thinking that starts to wrestle with lived oppression, with social affect, and the blinders of my own position.”

I have discovered that my close-reading is most meaningful for me in the frameworks of application, policy and the lived experiences of subjects (myself included).
As a WOC ENG student, I wrestle often with the pervasive White privilege that continues to dominate discussions, and privilege certain voices and perspectives.

Perhaps in doing an ENG MA, I discovered how I’ve outgrown the English department.

On Why Am I Here??

I came back into academia with a few driving motivations.

  1. Build an academic experience around professors (particularly POC) whom I respect.
  2. Learn and challenge myself through critical theory so that my creative writing will be more informed.
  3. Grapple with language that does not simplify, that can reimagine possibilities for anti-oppressive narratives.

Insofar as these three points go,  this 1/4 of an MA has been fruitful.
I’m excited to see the kind of person I am at the end of the thing.
Mostly because I think she’ll be better, or at least, more honest with herself.

I’ve met some ridiculously intelligent people, peers who I respect and admire.
I’ve also met some people I hold up as people I don’t want to emulate academically.

All these experiences are precious because they continue to inform my self-positioning, and self-reflecting.
I feel growth in me – the literary muscle strengthening in my brain, and new possible ways for me to think, act and react.
We’ll just have to wait and see what 1/2 an MA will do…?

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jaziimun is an interdisciplinary artist who works in text, paper arts and tea. She is also an arts programmer, and a ceramic hobbyist. She is also a proud bun mom.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The 1/2 MA Post – An Index of Thoughts | jaziimun

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